Sri Lanka on Thursday indicted the Greek captain of an oil tanker, which carried crude oil to Paradip port in India from the port of Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait and caught fire in the eastern seas of Sri Lanka, for causing an oil spill.
The Panamanian flagged tanker was carrying 270,000 tonnes of crude and 1,700 tonnes of diesel from Kuwait to India. A fire broke out when the carrier was in the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on 3rd September 2020 at around 8:00 AM. The fire started because of an explosion in a boiler in the ship’s main engine room when it was sailing 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point.
Indian Coast Guard and their Sri Lankan counterparts had joined the firefighting efforts, it took them 3 days to completely douse the fire. Indian Coast Guard had mobilized seven ships and two aircraft for this operation and had provided necessary support to the Sri Lankan authorities. The tanker had 23 crew members – 18 Filipinos and five Greeks. Twenty-two of the 23 member crew had been safely rescued off the tanker.
Attorney General Dappula De Livera filed an indictment in the Colombo High Court against the crude oil tanker ‘MT New Diamond’ vessel’s captain over the incident.
Attorney General’s Coordinating Officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne told news media that the indictment was filed comprising two charges for marine pollution caused by the oil spill from the vessel and the failure to report in violation of section 26 and 38 of the Marine Pollution Prevention Act. No 35 of 2008. According to these sections of the Act, if a person found guilty for an offense, the suspect will be liable on conviction to fine not less than four million rupees and not exceeding fifteen million rupees.
Livera filed charges against Ilias in the Colombo High Court under two counts that carry a maximum penalty of Rs 20 million (USD 108,000).
Following that, the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) had sought the Attorney General’s advice on taking legal action under the Marine Pollution Prevention Act in connection with the marine pollution caused by the oil spill from the vessel.
The Marine Environment Protection Authority was informed by the Attorney General to go to the location of the vessel and investigate whether the oil spill from the vessel had caused marine pollution in the area.
According to the evidence and observations submitted by the MEPA, the Attorney General maintains that it was clear that the oil spill was from the vessel. Previously, the owners of the ‘MT New Diamond’ vessel had paid in total payment of Rs. 442 million in compensation to Sri Lanka Authorities as the cost incurred by government stakeholders in extinguishing the fire that broke out on the vessel.
However, negotiations with the owners of the vessel pertaining to claims regarding marine pollution caused by the vessel are pending.
The captain was made to appear before the court on September 28 for negligence and not putting in place safety measures to prevent fire on board.
He was barred from leaving the country, although no remand order was served on him in spite of a state request to the court.
A date for a hearing is yet to be announced.